FROM SOMEWHERE IN THE FOUR CORNERS
Barking Dog Road; Little Road, Big Dispute
Sometime during the summer of 1999 near the town of Lyons, CO, not far from Rocky Mountain National Park, a series of events started that has since become something of a legend among four wheelers concerned with land use issues. The events I am referring to concern a dispute surrounding a little known road known by locals as the Barking Dog Road or Trail. Much has been said and a little bit has been written over the intervening 3 ? years during which this story has unfolded and it is my intention to finally set the full story, up to this point, down in an understandable format. Names of many of the people involved will be left out (including my main source of information) due to ongoing or upcoming legal actions, but a couple of the principles' names are known to everyone familiar with the story so they will be referred to by name.
Barking Dog Road, referred to on some maps as Boulder County Road 87 leaves the highway a short distance outside the town of Lyons. The road has been used for many years by locals as forest service access or as a mildly challenging trip for a couple hours away from town. After leaving the highway it crosses the St. Vrain River via a concrete bridge that was constructed back in the early 1960s. For as long as most people can remember, after crossing the creek there was a hand painted sign on the cliff above the road that said something to the effect of "Private Property Next 2.5 miles, please stay on the Road", something which everyone did anyway because the road is a shelf road for much of the way and there isn't anywhere else to drive. But, sometime during the summer of 1999 the old sign disappeared and a new one appeared saying "No Motorized Vehicles". This is where the story actually begins.
To fully understand what the dispute is all about it is necessary to know a little history of the Barking Dog Road. The road is shown on various Boulder County maps going back many years, and on many of the maps it is shown as County Road 87 to Jamestown. But the history of the road goes back much further than even the available maps show, it can be documented to 1870. The road exists because many years ago the area was heavily mined, and of course access was needed to the various claims in the area. Barking Dog Road runs through the Highland Placer claim, and for at least 40 years, according to the former caretaker of the claim, the road has been considered a public road because there has not been any active mining in the area. In fact, according to another local historian, the road can be documented for many years as running all the way to the old town of Ballarat, through the Highland Placer to the Smuggler mine as access to the mine's power plant. But, in 1999 the property on which the road begins, the old Highland Placer claim, was purchased by a man from New Mexico named Mark Boslough. Mr. Boslough is the current owner and is the one responsible for attempting to close the road.
Shortly after the "No Motorized Vehicles" sign was posted boulders began to appear in the middle of the road, effectively blocking access for most vehicles. Also, trees were felled along the road to block vehicles from driving. This activity has been attributed to Boslough, angering both local four wheelers and a local land owner who needs access along the road to some property he owns. In fact, sometime in late 1999 this landowner remarked that there was no way Boslough could close the road, and he has since initiated legal action. Early in 2000 the individual that I talked to concerning these events did some research at the Boulder County government offices. He discovered that under Title 43 of the Colorado Statutes it is illegal to close a public road that extends to public lands, and doing so punishable as a misdemeanor under 43-2-201.1. Furthermore it is legal for a citizen to remove such obstructions to regain access to the road.
Conversations with county officials ensued, and a lot of conflicting information and misinformation was to follow. Maps in the possession of officials of the Transportation Division of Boulder County, which oddly enough falls under the Parks and Open Spaces Department, show the road as County Road 87 going back many years. But, Boulder County has a history of abandoning roads and not following the law in doing so, according to the officials in the Transportation Division it is usual practice just to remove a road from the map if the county does not want to maintain it in the future! This research and exchange of information continued up until June 2000 at which point the county officials sent Boslough a letter stating that according to Colorado law he needed the approval of all adjacent landowners, including the U.S. Forest Service, to close the road. Oddly enough, this letter was later retracted and the county officials that had been so helpful up to this point were told not to get involved in this dispute any more, the County Attorney wrote a letter saying that the officials had "misunderstood" what was going on.
In the late spring or early summer of 2000 some of the people that desired to use the road for motorized recreation decided to reopen the road as they determined was their right under Colorado law. It was announced on the "About Public Lands" website that a work crew was being formed to clear the road, and in the summer of 2000 about a half dozen people showed up at the designated time to reopen the road. The road was cleared, in fact the land owner that has since initiated legal action against Boslough thanked the people involved for reopening the road. The Boulder County Sheriff was also informed that the road had been reopened, and he walked the road saying everything looked OK to him, it was good that the road had been reopened because he remembered using it back in the 1950s.
It was at this point that Boslough apparently became angry, accusing the four wheelers of tearing things up (even going so far as accusing them of driving in a wetland where one doesn't even exist!) and called a New Mexico Congresswoman who called local Boulder County officials to complain about what Boslough perceived as trespassing on his private property. Subsequent to the New Mexican politician's involvement cooperation from Boulder County officials in this matter became virtually nonexistent. Boulder County has a history, as mentioned previously, of circumventing the law when it comes to road closures anyway, at times going so far as to land lock property owners.
You may at this point wonder where I am going with this story about a road not many have heard of and doesn't even go any great distance. First of all, there are clear RS2477 implications here, the road can easily be shown as having existed as far back as 1870 as a public thoroughfare, far longer than the 20 years on public land and 18 years on private land that a road must be traveled under the law to be shown as an existing public road. There have been several actions of note under RS2477 in the past several years, but none of them address the issues involved here. What usually happens is a county or other local government sues the federal government to try to reopen a road the feds have closed, but in this instance it is a private property owner that closed the road and the county seemingly has no interest in seeing it reopened. Furthermore, the local USFS Ranger has stated that as far as he is concerned the road needs to remain open because it provides access to forest service land.
Keep your eye on this one. Legal action in the near future appears to be imminent, in fact money to help in the legal battle to reopen the road has been solicited this fall on a Colorado four wheeling website. If you would like to become involved in this land use battle contact us and we can make the necessary contacts and inquiries to get you involved if need be. And one last note addressed to Mr. Boslough personally. I have read much of what you have printed concerning your side of this story, and I am wondering on what you are basing the closing of the Barking Dog Road. From all appearances the public has a right to use this road if they stay on the road, which due to the nature of the terrain has never been an issue.